But the Chinese experience working on the projects in Gwadar and its environs has not been without difficulty. While the Chinese have invested financial and human resources in the port over several years, Pakistan’s failure to maintain peace and stability in Baluchistan has been a major problem. Working under a constant threat of terrorism, several Chinese workers have been kidnapped and killed, and work has stalled frequently. “This has meant lack of supporting infrastructure and ancillary industries around the port,” reports Jabin T. Jacob, assistant director at the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi, in an August study, “The Future of China-Pakistan Relations after Osama bin Laden,” for the Australian think-tank Future Directions International, of which he is an associate(http://www.futuredirections.org.au/files/FDI%20Associate%20Paper%20-%2008%20August%202011.pdf). “The lack is such that the Port of Singapore Authority, which had taken over the running of the port, is said to be keen to cut its losses and hand it back to Pakistan before the end of the term of its contract. Further, Gwadar also faces competition from the much older and better developed port of Karachi in neighboring Sind province that has also received Chinese investments and could possibly serve Beijing’s purposes just as well.” As Jacob notes, the link-up of the KKH with Gwadar Port is now on hold.
At the same time, Washington has taken note of the Chinese presence in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of northern Pakistan. Washington has not issued an official statement, but it is likely that those who are concerned about Sino-Pakistani relations do not consider this a positive development. News reports indicate that Chinese miners and their affiliates are in Gilgit-Baltistan, especially in the Hunza-Nagar district, which is rich in uranium and other precious minerals. Some areas in upper Hunza, for instance, like the Chapursan Valley have become no-go areas, where the Chinese carry on their work on tunnel building and mineral explorations.
Reports also claim that Chinese miners have acquired a lease in the Astore district to extract high-quality copper. One company exploring for uranium and gold in Gilgit-Baltistan and coordinating with Chinese investors is Shahzad International, which is one of the largest lease-owning foreign contractors in the region.
Though not much is discussed publicly yet, some analysts do recognise that, although Sino-Pakistani ties have been deep and longstanding, there are now as many caveats in the relationship as there are uncertainties dogging the region.
In his talks with Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, Meng stressed the “three forces of evil”””terrorism; extremism and separatism; and drug trafficking, illegal immigration and transnational crime””and said that these problems are a real threat requiring Pakistans “mutual support and cooperation.”
For instance, if Beijing’s relations with Pakistan begin to extend a shadow over Sino-Indian relations, China might very well weigh the annual Sino-Indian trade of about US$60 billion against the approximately US$7 billion trade with Pakistan to Islamabad’s detriment. As Gwadar shows, Chinese investments in Pakistan have not always worked out well. And in addition, China’s growing economic involvement in Pakistan has prompted increased targeting of Chinese civilians by Pakistan’s militants. Inside Pakistan, Chinese citizens have been subject to terrorism and violence. Beijing may conclude that the cost of doing business and trying to maintain influence in Pakistan is too high.
More importantly, Beijing has noted that it considers addressing the instability in Pakistan to be imperative and links this with the Chinese domestic political goal of preventing instability and extremism from penetrating the already volatile Xinjiang province in western China, which borders Pakistan. China has taken stern notice of the presence of violent separatist members of the East Turkistan Independence Movement (ETIM) within Pakistan. ETIM actively foments unrest and some violence in Xinjiang, threatening Beijing’s declared core interest of maintaining its own territorial integrity.
In September, following the 30 July 2011 Kashgar attacks—when two Uighur men identified by Beijing as members of the ETIM carried out a series of knife and bomb attacks in Kashgar, Xinjiang—and the 18 July 2011 attack in Hotan, Xinjiang—a series of coordinated bomb and knife attacks reportedly carried out by 18 young Uighur men wearing full-face Islamic veils—state councillor and minister of public security, Meng Jianzhu, made an official visit to Pakistan. In his talks with Pakistan president Asif Ali Zardari, Meng stressed the “three forces of evil”—terrorism; extremism and separatism; and drug trafficking, illegal immigration and transnational crime—and said that these problems are a real threat requiring Pakistan’s “mutual support and cooperation.” Observers have since speculated that tension has emerged between China and Pakistan.